Smith Electric Vehicles is alive and operating, even if it’s not building trucks for a while, according to Bryan Hensel, the specialty builder’s CEO and co-founder, refuting reports that the company had closed.
A “strategic decision” to stop money-losing production around the first of the year resulted in layoffs of assembly line workers, he said, but the plant and office in Kansas City, Mo., remains staffed with about 100 engineering, manufacturing, sales, marketing and support people.
Component manufacturing is being moved from the United Kingdom to Malaysia, where motors, controllers and other parts will be made at less cost and with higher quality, Hensel said. As before, components will be shipped to Kansas City for final assembly when production resumes in mid summer.
New Generation 3 trucks will include 16,000- to 26,000-pound-GVW Newton low-cab-forward and stripped chassis models, he said. Generation 2 trucks produced until the shutdown “were built to validate the technology and get quantities of trucks out there to validate that it was what we and customers needed.”
The Edison model that used a Ford Transit van chassis has been discontinued, even though the new Transit will be built locally, in Kansas City. “We sat down with Ford and decided that it wasn’t going to make sense to electrify the new Transit,” Hansel said.
Outside investors are being added to financial backers who include current stockholders, he said. The amount of backing will be announced in May.
Previous operations incurred heavy loses, but “we feel very confident that we will have a positive return on our investment,” Hansel continued. “The previous supply chain was low volume. Now it’s time to go from hundreds of trucks produced to thousands. We think demand will be higher than ever, but we’re not publicly stating any production forecasts.”
Asked why calls to Smith Electric’s Kansas City office were not picked up last Friday, as we previously reported, Hansel explained that the company was closed for Good Friday and IT problems crippled answering devices. A test call made Tuesday was promptly fielded by a lady who cheerfully said, “Oh, yes. We’re here!”